The Good, The Potentially Bad, and The Very Disingenuousness of AB 626 - Microenterprise Kitchen Operation Law

IF YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT STARTING A MEAL PREP OR OTHER HOME-COOKED MEAL BIZ, YOU MAY QUALIFY TO OPERATE UNDER AB626 - THE MICROENTERPRISE KITCHEN OPERATION LAW - SIGNED EARLIER THIS YEAR!

⁣⁣It’s similar to the Cottage Law we talked about last week on IG, but this law decriminalizes ready-to-eat home-cooked meals IF: ⁣⁣

  • You only prepare 60 “meals” a week⁣⁣

  • You only earn up to $50,000 in yearly revenue⁣⁣

  • You sell directly to the consumer

⁣⁣Of course, you’ll have to meet the requirements, agree to inspections, and pay some fees but this could be a good way to launch or try your business in a low-cost manner.⁣⁣

While I think this is a great start, I have some *THOUGHTS* (UH-OH) on this but let me set the scene for you:

(There is a great article on this in LA Times by Frank Shyong on this. I talk about his points, but give my opinion):

  • ⁣⁣First, this bill was actually marketed to help working-class, immigrant folks as the main beneficiaries

  • ⁣⁣If you’re making foods that immigrants and people color typically make (ex: tamales, pupusas, dumplings, etc), then how many of those items constitutes a meal? 1 tamal? 2 pupusas? 6 dumplings? I guess it would depend on each person. The wording is vague AF.⁣⁣

  • Tech companies, like AirBnB, actually lobbied to have AB626 pass because they offer “experiences” that showcase home-cooked meals/classes through their platform. ⁣⁣

  • Tech giants may be the ones to benefit most from this passing as they will be able to provide a platform (for a percentage) for folks who have little to no experience running + marketing a food biz.⁣⁣

Here’s my take: It’s clear that while English-speaking, internet-savvy people might be able to use this as a low-cost way to launch and market their food biz, the marketing of the bill itself is disingenuous!⁣⁣

  • How do folks who may not speak any English or who don’t necessarily have the knowledge/access to the Internet in the way that many of us do navigate these new platforms and this new food-tech economy?⁣⁣

  • How do we define a “meal” when lots of foods are actually individual items sold in bulk? There is grey area there that hasn’t been addressed and can disqualify many home-cooked food businesses from legally operating.⁣⁣ While this may benefit folks who have a straight-ahead + easily definable “meal-prep” concept, it leaves out folks who don’t.

  • Input from these communities was never included when drawing up or negotiating the bill.

  • ⁣⁣If you think about it, $50,000 in revenue is nothing when operating a food biz. (REVENUE IS DIFFERENT FROM PROFIT.) While some may argue that when you hit that number, you should be going the commercial kitchen route (cuz technically the bill was to “supplement” an income), it can also be argued that after the rent, taxes, food + labor overhead, and so forth, you won’t be left with a livable wage, esp in CA. ⁣⁣

  • Further, if a home-cooked food business is hitting that number but the owner does not qualify for loans/capital, leases, etc due to their undocumented status, how do they scale their business legally?

⁣⁣I don’t have the answers (and the ones I do have are very idealistic!), but one way to help these folks is to allocate that same tech-giant lobbying budget to give people RESOURCES AND COURSES in their language to help them be on these platform if that’s what they want. ⁣It’s a win-win for the tech-companies (not that I necessarily care about their profit) as they get more food biz owners using their platforms and food businesses can start up in a relatively low-cost manner.

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⁣⁣While I do think there should be a whole damn infrastructure for food vending and informal food economies that doesn’t just include street vending, that’s a whole other post!

⁣⁣I def see this going tech, big time. Imma keep an eye on this.⁣⁣

**Update 7/24/19: As far as I know only Riverside County has allowed permits for microenterprise home cooks. The other issue is that while Jerry Brown signed AB 626 into law, local governments haven’t allowed permits.

What do you think about this whole AB626 situation? Let me know in the comments below!⁣

Stephanie ParraComment